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So Long, Brooklyn.....Hello, Brooklyn. A Farewell post from Tara.

Oct 28, 2010 6:40 AM | 0 comments

It feels bittersweet that my time in Brooklyn is coming to an end, as I am moving to Australia with my husband to have a child and begin a new life chapter. I will certainly miss my job as the Research Assistant in the Brooklyn Collection, and the pleasures of discovering fascinating Little-Known Brooklyn Residents in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Morgue. My days of unearthing photos of cats dressed up in princess outfits, pipe-organs in apartments, and youthful treasure hunters are behind me, and I will remember these days fondly. 

Happy days working in the morgue 

Although there is some regret about leaving the borough I love and have called home for many years, there is one small reassuring factor -- that is, the place I am moving to in Australia happens to be right up the road from a small Australian town -- also named Brooklyn. Admittedly it is not a great idea to compare the town with the borough, as Australia's Brooklyn has fewer than 700 residents, and the local pizza is far, far less divine. But some general comparisons are fair enough for those moments of nostalgia, as Australia's Brooklyn is also surrounded by water, has a locally renowned bridge, and coincidentally is just a stone's throw from a "Long Island."

View of Brooklyn, NSW, from Hawkesbury River station bridge by Adam J.W.C. 

There are varying reports as to why Australia's Brooklyn was named as such; folklore attributes the name to the locally renowned bridge that was built by the Union Bridge Company of New York, in 1889. However, local historians have uncovered records that show that Brooklyn was named by the Fagan brothers--area landowners who were thought to have had relatives living in Brooklyn, New York--well before the building of the bridge. 

View of Brooklyn's bridge, aka Hawkesbury Bridge. Image from Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

So for now it is time for me to say "So Long" to the borough of Brooklyn, so that I may say "Hello" to the town of Brooklyn. I fondly bid farewell to the Brooklyn Public Library and the terrific Brooklyn Collection -- a trove of endless fascinating stuff. Thanks for the memories, Brooklyn Collection -- you will indeed be missed. 

So Long...




Editor's note: Tara Cuthbert and Stuart Solzberg are creators and curators of the Bushwick Farms conceptual art project, which will now enter a new phase in a new land. We wish them every happiness.

Tonight! October 27th at 6:30pm BUSHWICK FARMS: Imagined Genealogies and Conceptual History.

Oct 27, 2010 1:47 PM | 0 comments


 What happens when art meets history and genealogy?

Tara Cuthbert and Stuart Solzberg, creators of the Bushwick Farms project, will describe their ongoing art project as it nears the end of one phase and enters another, in an illustrated talk at 7 p.m. on Wednesday October 27th in the Brooklyn Collection, Central Library. Click here to learn more and prepare to be surprised and delighted. As usual, we will ply you with astonishingly good cheese and wine starting at 6:30 p.m. before you take your seat.

And They're Off! - Part 2

Oct 26, 2010 11:30 AM | 1 comment

In this second part of And They're Off we look at the role that the racing industry played in establishing the Sheepshead Bay African-American community and the First Baptist Church of Sheepshead Bay.    

                                                              The Brighton Beach Race Track opened in 1874.  Occupying land between Ocean Avenue and Avenue U, the Sheepshead Bay Race Track began operating in 1884.  With the addition of the Coney Island Race Track in 1885, Brooklyn became the premier spot for horse racing in the country.  These three new and successful enterprises needed workers, and there was plenty to be done.  Workers were needed to groom, ride and train the horses, clean the stables, and to work in the new hotels catering to the visitors. They came from around the world and across the country.  One group that would come in search of employment, and stay to establish a community in Sheepshead Bay were African-Americans (one generation from slavery) from the southern states--especially Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas.      

One of these newcomers was Maria J. Fisher.  Born in Virginia, Maria came to Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay, where, from 1885, she sold pies at the Brighton Beach Race Track with her two daughters.  Being an intensely spiritual person, she would often be called upon by the superintendent of the race track, Frank Clark, to visit the sick or bereaved. Many workers had left family and friends in the South and had no one to care for them.  Mother Fisher (as she was beginning to be called) recognized the need for a Baptist church in that area. Some residents had been traveling to Concord Baptist Church in downtown Brooklyn but the commute was long and tiring. In the spring of 1899 a group of church members were given permission to establish a Baptist church in Sheepshead Bay. 


May 10th, 1899,

To the First Baptist Mission of Sheepshead Bay,  Dear Bretheren,

This is to certify that the following named Bretheren and Sisters on their own request, has been granted a joint letter of dismission from the above named church for the purpose to organize and to assist to organize a Baptist Mission in Sheepshead Bay, N.Y. 

Reverend George O. Dixon, Bro. Joseph Braxton, Sisters Mary Woods, Jessie Bogart, Annie Johnson, Mary Johnson, Bertha Green, Ida Shaw - May God Bless the union, this our prayer. Done by the Concord Baptist Church, Friday evening May 10th, 1899    William T. Dixon, Pastor                           

Selected to lead the new church was the brother of William T. Dixon, Reverend George O. Dixon.                                                             

Using an icebox for a pulpit, they began holding services at the corner of Avenue X and East 15th Street, as well as at Mother Fisher's home and the homes of other parishioners. Frank Clark even donated 50 chairs.  Realizing that the fledgling congregation needed a permanent structure, in the winter of '99 Fisher along with Sister Mary Woods approached the owner of the race track, William Engeman.  Telling him "We have no church for our fold in Sheepshead Bay," she began to speak about the spiritual needs of the African-American community.  When asked how much she had for a downpayment, and how much more she would need, she replied, "We haven't any money, but as we see it, the Lord has so wonderfully blessed you with all that ground on 15th Street; we ask you in the name of the Lord to give us two lots."  His reply, after recovering from shock, was to go into his office. On returning he told them, "If the Lord sent you out this cold morning, I guess I have to see what I can do."  Soon after, Maria Fisher received a letter giving the congregation the land at 2349 East 15th Street.  The one-story and basement church would be constructed for a cost of $2,870.00 by Theodore McKane, contractor.  Second-hand bricks were donated for the foundation, but they had to be transported.  Undeterred, Mother Fisher borrowed a wheelbarrow and carted the initial load to the site herself.    


 Click on the article to see how the church opening was covered in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle 

The racing industry in this section of Brooklyn died in the early 1900's. Mother Maria Fisher passed away in 1930. But their legacy, born from the intersection of commerce, migration and religion lives on in the First Baptist Church of Sheepshead Bay.  The church has grown and prospered througout the years, and on May 16th, 2009, a portion of East 15th Street was renamed Mother Maria J. Fisher Way, in her honor.  The celebrations continued with the church celebrating its 110th anniversary the next day.


    Photo courtesy of Kevin Walsh/Forgotten New York 

Carrying on the work of preserving the church's legacy for future generations is church historian Donald Brown. Mr Brown, himself the descendent of race track workers, has continued the work of his mother, Sister Florence Brown, church clerk, whose records he so generously shared with us.   



The First Baptist Church of Sheepshead Bay


Project CHART - Digitizing Brooklyn History

Oct 20, 2010 12:51 PM | 1 comment

Brooklynology is pleased to welcome Micah Vandegrift for this guest post. Micah is the Coordinator for Project CHART (Cultural Heritage Access Research and Technology) at Brooklyn Public Library where he will be supervising interns in the digitization of historic photographs, and co-managing CHART's development as a cultural heritage curriculum.

Looks like Bedford these days too! View this image in our catalog. 

It is not difficult to imagine what Brooklyn would have looked like in the recent past. Many of the buildings, landmarks and neighborhoods retain the characteristics of their history very well. Fortunately, you don’t have to imagine it! As readers of Brooklynology may know, Brooklyn Public Library has an extensive collection of photographs, maps, periodicals and more that can help us construct a historic portrait of our fair city. Project CHART is an extension of the work that is already being done to preserve and provide access to those materials, and I am proud to introduce it to you here.

This is a multi-institutional project, funded by an IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services) grant awarded to Pratt Institute's School of Information and Library Science. In addition to the library, the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Historical Society are also undertaking  projects  to digitize their Brooklyn-based materials, and all the photos/documents/ephemera that are digitized through the grant will be combined into one gigantic, amazing digital history repository. Sharing resources between major cultural institutions in this manner is a growing trend, similar to the NYARC consortium, and is a very exciting development for us.  

As the ultimate goal of Project CHART is to begin to develop professionals who are experienced in digital curation (a buzz term in the library/museum world), my role will be to select, train and supervise interns from Pratt’s School of Information and Library Science. The interns will have the opportunity to get hands-on experience in dealing with historic materials, resolving issues relating to preservation and access, and sharing our findings through conferences and reports. The best part about this whole project is that the BPL interns and I will have our digital lab in “The Morgue,” a collection space deep in the library’s hallowed halls. Getting behind the doors, and into the collections will be a really valuable experience for the students.


Brooklyn Public Library has chosen several specific collections for this project, which will end up totaling around 6,000 images. (This is in addition to 18,000 images already digitized via previous grant-funded projects.) Below are several examples of the materials that we will be working with:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Photographs - The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Photograph Collection documents change and development in the urban environment throughout the first half of the twentieth century. (c. 1900-1955)

Pope Mansion - 16 photographs, mostly of the interior of the building at 871 Bushwick Ave. (c. 1910)

Anders Goldfarb (Photographer) ‐ 22 Images that show everyday scenes in Brooklyn. These items have already been catalogued but are not yet digitized. (late 1970s to 1980s)

Bobby Fischer ‐ 28 Snapshots of Brooklyn‐raised chess master Bobby Fisher international tournament. (1962.)


Project CHART is still in the beginning stages, so there is not a lot more to tell at this point, except for the fact that we are very excited to have the opportunity to work closely with the Museum and the Historical Society on an endeavor of this scale. Keep an eye here on Brooklynology for periodic updates, and keep an ear out for upcoming events sponsored by the library, museum and historical society relating to this initiative.

Move over Costco

Oct 8, 2010 11:51 AM | 1 comment

Stores like BJ's and Costco have brought to many present-day Brooklynites an irresistible combination of consumer emotions, making us feel simultaneously rich and frugal by allowing us to cram our tiny New York City dwellings with discounted consumer goods.  For maybe seventy percent of the regular price, plus the price of your annual membership, you can lay up industrial quantities of frozen cod fillets, kitchen towels, and bottles of detergent so large you can barely lift them. You can buy two dozen eggs at once and watch them ageing in the refrigerator for the next month; you can stuff your freezer with so much frozen quiche that no real man would set foot within a mile of your apartment, and you can set your heart all aflutter carrying 40lb bags of dogfood up four flights of stairs. 

Come and get it wholsale!--Groceries and daity products are offered at wholesale prices in food club plan by Gertzog's 1794 Sheepshead Bay Road, first borough store to initiate co-operative buying on a weekly fee basis...Boris Edelman, co-owner of store, signed up 200 members in first three days. Brooklyn Daily Eagle Dec 9, 1947

Needless to say, such notions have been in the air in Brooklyn for a long time. The first food club in the borough, according to an Eagle article dated December 7, 1947, was started at the Gertzog dairy and grocery store, 1294 Sheepshead Bay Road. Part-owner of the store Boris Edelman said, "Women came here and they didn't have enough money to buy the things their families needed." Borrowing an idea from a Philadelphia butcher, he charged a $1.25 weekly fee and sold food items at wholesale prices.  According to his reckoning, he needed at least 350 members in order to turn a profit.

Boris Edelman, part-owner Gertzog Dairy & Grocery Store, 1794 Sheepshead Bay Road.  Mrs Olga Capozucca of 1515 Emmons Ave signs for food club a co-op buying at wholesale prices.

But not everyone was eager to jump on board. One woman refused to believe she could actually save money through the club. Something of a showman, Edelman decided to test her. He said "I pulled a dollar bill out of my pocket and offered it to her for a dime. She refused to take it. 'What's the catch in it?' she wanted to know."